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Highlights: The Chrysler 200 serves as the midsize replacement for both the discontinued Dodge Avenger and the 2014 Chrysler 200. Unlike the previous 200, a convertible will not be built off of the current platform.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $35,935 (base model $22,900)

Seating Capacity: 5

Standard Safety Features: all-wheel drive; air bags; ABS; automatic headlights; electronic parking brake; a stability control system; a tire pressure monitoring system; a tire repair kit

Standard Equipment (base model): 17-inch wheels; a 9-speed transmission; cloth seats; a manually operated driver’s seat; color-coded power exterior mirrors; body color door handles; a front center sliding front armrest; a keyless entry system; a power accessory delay system; and a manual operated tilt/telescopic steering wheel

Upgraded Standard Features On Test Model: 18-inch wheels; an 8-inch infotainment screen; 6-audio speakers with satellite radio for 1-year; 730-amp battery; LED running daytime lights; cloth and leather-trimmed sport seats; a compact spare tire; a compass gauge; dual integrated exhaust tips; fog lights; heated exterior mirrors; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; power front driver’s seat with lumbar support; power heated fold-away mirrors; rearview mirror with a microphone; a sport suspension system; and Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system

Optional Features On Test Vehicle: leather seats; heated and ventilated front seats; a power passenger seat; and illuminated visor vanity mirrors.

Other Trim Levels:

LX

Limited

C

 Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: 4-speaker AM/FM radio

 Bluetooth Connectivity: depending upon trim

 iPod/iPhone connectivity: Yes

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 5 years or 100,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 100,000 mile

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder/184-hp

Recommended Fuel: Regular

 Standard Fuel Mileage:

23-city/36-hwy

What’s New: The 200 is new inside and out for the 2015 model year.

 Pros: The folks at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have finally gotten the styling right with their front-wheel drive family sedan, the Chrysler 200. The 2015 200 no longer looks like it should be a part of a rental car fleet. While the curvaceous styling is a key element that has attracted many buyers to the vehicle, the high-tech, driver-focused interior, which compliments the exterior, is a draw, too.

Once inside the vehicle, occupants will notice that the instrument panel is radically different from most of the vehicles in the midsize segment. The 200’s interior designers created a space age, free-flowing center console, which houses a rotary dial shifter like the Mazda6, replacing the traditional parking shifting lever. The interior cluster also contains an easy-to-use 8-inch infotainment system, which houses the navigation system, the audio system, the ventilation system and the optional climate control front seats, too.

In a day and time where some of the 200 competitors are being driven by a 4-cylinder or a 4-cylinder turbo, Chrysler has stuck to its guns, offering both a non-turbo 4-cylinder and a 6 cylinder. The 200’s 6-cylinder engine is controlled by the segment’s first 9-speed transmission. And besides offering the traditional front-wheel drive configuration, the 200 is also one of the few in the midsize segment to offer an all-wheel drive configuration.

Depending on the trim, the 200 is available with the latest optional safety driving features. Some of those features consist of a blind spot warning system, a lane keep assist system and a forward collision braking system – all of which escaped the 2014 model.

Overall, the 200S we reviewed was outfitted with supportive front seats and a powerful 6-cylinder engine that was literally riding on a sport-tuned suspension system, which eagerly soaked up the highways and city streets.

Cons: While most of the vehicles in the midsize segment rave about the interior seating space, the Chrysler 200 falls short in this area. The 200’s cozy cabin literally is a reminder that it’s a tight fit to seat three occupants in the rear due to the stylish, but low and curvy roofline.

The rotary dial mechanism, which replaces the standard shift lever, doesn’t automatically return to park like the premium imports, when the vehicle is turned off. Unfortunately, like what we experienced first-hand, the driver will have to be reminded to place the vehicle in park, before turning it off.

The Chrysler engineering team should consider adding more soft touch points and improve the overall fit of the vehicle, bringing it on par with many of the competitors in the segment. In our opinion, the 200 needs to be brought to the same level of refinement that currently exist in its big sibling, the upscale Chrysler 300.

And our last quibble is that it is high time for Chrysler to consider adding a hybrid powertrain to the family. Every competitor in this segment offers an alternative to gasoline, whether it is an electric plug-in, hybrid or a diesel.

 Verdict: While the midsize market sales have slid backwards this year, the 200 has been the diamond in the rough, out-pacing every vehicle in the segment with record sales. This is all due to its stunning design. Yes, a sexy design trumps many other factors when consumers are considering buying a vehicle. Not only is the fresh, contemporary design racking up sales, healthy discounts being offered by both the manufacturer and the dealers are helping to push the 200 sales, too!

 Competition: Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Mazda6, Subaru Legacy Toyota Camry and VW Passat

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Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him on Twitter/JeffCars.

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